OWL

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10 thoughts on “OWL”

  1. I’ve seen OWL discussed here and on moreTPRS before.
    Similar philosophy to TPRS, but different. I’ve imagined it’s like TPR on steroids with lots of “supposed” personalization. I bet TPRS actually gets more personalization, at least more compelling P. Certainly more comprehensible.
    It doesn’t say at all how they give kids vocabulary and what strategies/activities they use to get kids to talk about their lives. What is the “method”? Or do they just submerse the kids and make kids rely on circumlocution and inference? And with no translation. Whew. I bet that doesn’t stay comprehensible to everyone.
    I don’t understand #13 (natural sequences? threads are followed?)
    Red flags:
    2. No translation
    7. Students are teachers of each other.
    9. Based on Swain (CO = Comprehensible Output) – in other words, they think acquisition can happen from output. Krashen has argued otherwise.
    Questionable practices:
    10. When grammar issues “obscure” the meaning they get explained in the target language (I doubt explaining grammar in the target language is gonna make things much clearer).
    Misunderstandings:
    1. Yes, immersion eventually works, but we can do better than a 100% “natural context.”
    14. Questioning leads students to the next language level? They mean differentiating questions to solicit more output? This is the CO.

  2. Eric, I think you’ve done an excellent job of pointing out the weak spots, which seem like big gaping holes to me. I doubt if any “100% immersion” situation really does without any translation. I mean, there’s usually someone around who can help to clear up misunderstandings, or a dictionary, particularly in this day and age. I fail to understand the attitude that Translation is evil and wicked and should be avoided at all costs.

  3. There is a Japanese teacher (native Russian speaker) at my high school who uses mostly OWL in her teaching, except she still has desks. I know that her class puts a lot of emphasis on students just talking to one another in L2 from day one as well as the “TPR on steroids” that Eric mentioned. Students are required to speak in front of the class everyday (this is Japanese 1). They also take output quizzes everyday. I agree that it’s better than the textbook, and is probably as good as a communicative class can be, but even as a newbie to the research, I also see large conflicts with what we know about SLA.
    My concerns:
    2.) I definitely have a problem with the no translation part, especially for a language which is written in characters and doesn’t have many cognates. I wouldn’t even be in favor of this approach for Spanish, which is what I teach.
    4.) They say that they want students to not be afraid when learning a foreign language, but then they insist on doing all of the things that *raise* the affective filter.
    7.) How are students teachers of one another given what we know is true about requiring accurate, compelling, comprehensible input? I doubt that students can make their output compelling while also remembering to make it comprehensible and not make basic grammar errors on top of that so that their classmates hear proper L2.
    What I like about it:
    3.) Yes! This is what a language class should be about.
    10.) The “pop-up” grammar approach seems similar to TPRS, but I know that true OWL doesn’t ever believe in explaining the pop-ups in English.

  4. Yup! I had the same reaction / raised eyebrows and flags:
    “They say that they want students to not be afraid when learning a foreign language, but then they insist on doing all of the things that *raise* the affective filter.
    How are students teachers of one another given what we know is true about requiring accurate, compelling, comprehensible input? I doubt that students can make their output compelling while also remembering to make it comprehensible and not make basic grammar errors on top of that so that their classmates hear proper L2.”
    I agree, nice idea, and obviously “everyone” (aka general public) accepts without question that “immersion is the best way to learn.” So that makes it more marketable I guess. I have never experienced it, but have seen some videos on their website. And like Judy I also fail to understand why translation (or as Carol Gaab calls it, “linking meaning,” is so evil.)
    Meh.

  5. I once went to a training session put on by my state for “learning how to teach to the Standards”. The presenter was extolling the benefits of comprehensible input (notice lower case). People asked HOW to make it comprehensible and went through several ways….basically promoting the use of charades, et. al. I then spoke up and said, “OR….you can just give them the English and move on.” Well, I thought I had committed a crime! She then went on to say, “no, no, no! NEVER use English!” When I asked her why, she said, “well, that is what ________ (insert HER presenter’s name here – the woman who trained our state’s teacher-leaders) said!. She said that we are NEVER to use English — to only use circumlocution, TPR, pictures, etc.”
    It wasn’t worth it to me to argue – she wasn’t going to listen.

  6. Eric has done a very nice job of articulating OWL from the TPRS perspective. In my view, I wish them the best.
    They might be able to hook traditionalists by playing the target language bully in the classroom and advocating for early output. Once traditionalists begin to see that these practices fail and they will…they will start to better understand the benefits of TPRS.
    The “TPRS on steroids” is a great way term for OWL. I can see OWL being for advanced learners in years 4 and 5 of a language programs…for me I would never use a beefed up philosophy of TPRS with beginners.

  7. I know a guy who is all in on OWL and is part of the managing team. We get along. I just sent him this email today. We’ll see what he has to say:
    hey,
    I was glad to see you at CSC this weekend.
    I noticed you lingered a bit after my Saturday session. I’d appreciate any feedback. It appears to me that we likely align in many ideas, including a need for active engagement on our students’ part, a desire to build a stgrong sense of community, the notion that specific, teacher-driven vocab lists are ineffective and that curriculum can be built organically with our students helping to steer that ship.
    But, looking over the handout I picked up from [your exhibitor’s booth], I was wondering if you could help me understand OWL a bit more.
    What does OWL mean when they say:
    appropriate levels of questioning lead students to the next level
    and
    how does explaining spanish grammar in spanish help a student understand?
    Please know I think we share the same goal and, ultimately, are on the same team. I’m just looking to deepen my understanding of where OWL is coming from.
    Cheers!

    1. I agree Jim. The guy hung around after Grant’s session for a reason and Grant didn’t hit him over the head with a hammer. Rather, he asked questions about the guy’s interests. That’s good fishin’.

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